- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

OXFORD, Ind. (AP) - A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome who wants to move to Indiana to be closer to his wife’s family is struggling to find a Benton County community that will accept his rescued pit bull.

Wayne Tibbett, 27, says the dog he adopted from an animal shelter in New York, where he currently lives, is not a trained service dog but serves as an emotional support animal.

“My dog is pretty much what keeps me going,” Tibbett told the Journal & Courier (https://on.jconline.com/18JKdhT ). “It helps me out with the issues that I have. He is pretty much glued to my leg at all times.”

But while 2-year-old Zorro is a welcome addition to Tibbett’s life, the dog is not welcome in Oxford or Fowler, the communities Tibbett and his family would like to live in once his military contract ends in May.

Both communities ban pit bulls. Oxford’s ordinance prohibits residents from possessing “any vicious animal” and labels breeds commonly referred to as pit bulls as “inherently vicious.”

“It prohibits the dog from being in Oxford,” said Christie Hale, Oxford clerk-treasurer. “It doesn’t currently allow for any exceptions.”

Fowler Police Chief Dennis Rice said his town has similar restrictions.

“The way the ordinance is written now, he could live there but he couldn’t have the dog,” Rice said. “There’s nothing in the ordinance to allow for special dogs such as this.”

Tibbett’s mother-in-law, Elaine Stone, plans to ask the Oxford council to amend its ordinance to allow Zorro.

“He’s been through enough already and now he has to come back here and fight more for his own rights,” Stone said. “It’s hard on his wife. They just want to come back and live in a nice, quiet place.”

Oxford Council President Tina Coffman said she would consider Tibbett’s request if he can prove that Zorro is an emotional support dog, but she noted that three of the five council members would have to agree to amend the ordinance.

“If they can prove that it’s an emotional (support) dog, I would work with him,” she said. “I can’t (speak) for the rest of the council.”

An emotional support dog is considered an assistance animal under the federal Fair Housing Act. And post-traumatic stress disorder is a disability, according to the Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities acts.

“It would be like if they had a walker or wheelchair,” said Brad Meadows, deputy director for external affairs with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Stone said she is waiting to receive medical documentation confirming Tibbett’s disability and the need for the dog before she attends a council meeting on his behalf.

“I could understand how the town feels because they do have to protect the community … but I think it should be (on) a case-by-case basis,” she said. “He really needs this animal to help him through everything he’s been through, and I think the town should accept (that).”


Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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